There has been a lot of focus lately on helping military spouses find jobs. And nobody understands that plight more than me. I’ve lost track of how many times we’ve moved, how many times I’ve had to search for a new job, how many times I’ve had to start all over at the bottom of the proverbial workplace ladder. So what is a military spouse to do? Is there a way to guarantee that not only will you have a job at your next duty station, but that you also retain any tenure or seniority you’ve been working so hard to achieve? Entrepreneurship and owning your own business may be the answer.
It does take a special kind of person to run a business, but life as a military spouse is one of the best business boot camps out there. Traits and skills that lead to a success life within the military community often translate in to success in the business world. I asked a few of the Military Spouse Business Association’s members about which traits have helped them find success in business.
This is absolutely the one key trait of a successful military spouse, and as it turns out, it’s also key for a successful business owner.
“As military spouses we are constantly dealing with change in our lives. Some of it good and some of it bad, but no matter what, we always find a way to adapt to and embrace the change.” says Jean Hoskins of Not Me, My Creative Neighbor.
I couldn’t agree more. As much as we plan or try to predict how our customers will respond, the ability to be flexible and adaptable will ensure a business continues to grow. There is an old adage that says it is better to bend than to break. Business owners who don’t bend to changing trends or community needs will find themselves snapping in the winds of change. Good thing we military spouses eat change for breakfast.
Communication & Networking Skills
Every time we move to a new duty station, these key skills help us to set up house, figure out our way around, and help us settle in so things can get back to normal. Guess what? These same skills are essential for a successful business owner.
Gail Simond-Boyd of Full-Bloom Wellness recognizes this as an essential skillset that has assisted her with her business. “The constant transition helps us to develop outstanding interpersonal skills that we can use to connect with clients we serve, network with potential employers and collaborators.” As a business owner you have to be able to communicate with others. You have to be willing to share your business with potential customers and you have to be able to ask for help when you need it.
And what about when we need help? Nichte Ixtel of De Anda Graphic Designs adds, “We serve as a great network of knowledge and support for one another.” This idea is another that translates so easily from our experience as military spouses. We are really good at turning to each other for assistance and input. The idea that “we’re all in this together” permeates the military community and creates an excellent environment for starting and growing a business. We’re like our own small business battle-buddies.
“Just like getting through any move, owning a business is right along the same line,” says Alison Donnely of smallprint.com. She’s exactly right, especially when it comes to organization. While great organization skills may not have been our list of personal traits when we entered the military community, it is almost guaranteed it’s a skill we develop, and fast. It only takes a few instances of searching for our spouse’s service cap at zero dark-thirty in the morning or the unpacking of household goods that contains the garbage can complete with remnants of the last meal at our previous duty station, to kick that desire for organization into place. It is this same organization and attention to detail that makes things like keeping business receipts, paying invoices, shipping orders, and keeping up with customer inquiries something that is just a part of our everyday routine. You can call us CPT Organized.
Perserverance & Discipline
These last two traits are from my own arsenal of experience. As part of a military community we hear these words on a regular basis, to the point where they are ingrained as the mantra for our daily successes. So, it will come as no surprise that they also translate into ideal traits for a business owner.
As military spouses we are often asked to do all, fix all, discover all, and take care of all. Business ownership is no different. It takes time to build a business, just as it takes time to establish an achievable routine when you find yourself as the one responsible for maintaining the home front during a deployment. We have to do what has to be done, even if we don’t want to do it, even if we don’t know how to do it. Sometimes that means we have to learn a new skill, sometimes that means we have to search for help, and sometimes that means we sacrifice a little sleep or a little personal time. It is this same ability to persevere that is essential when starting a new venture. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a successful business. It is only with careful, thoughtful, and dedicated work will you be able to see the fruits of your labor.
Now, don’t get me wrong, business ownership is in many ways a much more difficult career path than the traditional 9-5 job. The infomercials that insist you can only work a couple hours a day and then vacation at some tropical hotspot and drive an imported sports car are more than just a little inflated. But when you consider that when you work for yourself, you guarantee that your experience and efforts will travel with you no matter where the military takes you, it might just be the best way to help military spouses maintain their skillsets and contribute to the family income.